Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tonight should be no different than any other.

Tonight should be no different than any other.

Tonight should be no different than any other. Except that it is. I’ve driven through this stretch of road a thousand times or more. We’re old friends, this lone expanse and I. I’d know the curve in the road like the back of my own hand. Yet something feels quite unusual this evening. The air is still and thick. I should be alone on this stretch of road as it winds, curves and gives way to hills and valleys. However, in the distance I can make out a pair of headlights approaching quickly. There’s a four-way stop ahead illuminated with the dim orange of a single streetlamp. We both slow and reach the stop sign. It’s a red pickup truck – horn sounds twice and brights flash. It’s Hank. Nice fellow. He’s out awful late, but very sweet of him to reassure me nonetheless. I flash back to let him know I’m ok. Car etiquette. No sooner than had I signaled, yet another pair of lights approach behind Hank’s truck. They pair appears to continue forward rapidly, as though they’ll overtake his truck and pass right through me. Hank’s blinker stays up another half second and he makes his right turn. On the edge of my seat in suspense as the anticipation grows. There’s no one behind his truck. All that remains is the orange glow of the lonely streetlamp casting oblique shadows on an empty road. I’m tired and must have just imagined it. Shake off that feeling of eerie and move along, as I’ve paused here at this stop far too long. There’s precious cargo to get home tonight. My little girl is sound asleep in the back seat.

Light rain has left the road is slick and glistening beautifully in the shadows of night. My trek home typically takes about a ½ hour through the very rural countryside. Often there's the hazard of hitting wildlife that has strayed too far into the road or the possibility of a fallen tree blocking the intersection. Despite the desolate landscape, the radio works quite fine out here. NPR is keeping me company as I make a sharp left through the Trout Creek community, which is home to about three residences. Hardly a community, if you ask me. Terrible night to break down as it seems the wind has begun to pick up and the light drizzle has gained momentum. We should be home shortly. Another pair of lights approaches from the rear. From the stance, it seems as though they belong to a rather large vehicle, which will overtake me at any moment. I hate to do this as its freezing, but I rolled down my window, extend my arm and wave the driver to pass. Nothing. Barrels down faster. I can hear the engine approach at full throttle. Maybe he didn’t see me? Urgently, I wave again, arm extended further out. Lights disappear. But I can still hear an engine. Did he turn off his lights? No. Silence. No one is behind me. Alright, I’m just sleepy. Maybe the car pulled of the road into one of the driveways. No sense in getting worked up, but I can’t tell that to my heart which won’t stop thumping in my chest. Naila stirs in the backseat. Shh. Go back to sleep, we’re almost home.

Radio off. It’s important to remain focused on the road. Home is about ten minutes away now. The darkest portion of the drive is just around the corner. There aren’t any homes in this last stretch of emptiness. Fear has set into my mind. Try to stop yourself, but it can’t be stopped. Once the fear has taken a hold of you there’s no chance of letting it go. Take the left bend and a sharp right. LIGHTS! Blinding. Imminent crash. Brakes, swerve, stop. Nothing. NAILA! Relief, she’s still sleeping. I’m hyperventilating, unable to catch my breath, sitting still in the dark with my lights facing the road. Pause. Engine revs. It’s not mine. There isn’t anything in front of me, except I can make out steam and the strip of tires burning in the air around me. Don’t think, GO! I throw the car in gear and head off into the night being chased by something phantom and unknown. Slam! I can feel the car being struck with violent force by an unknown entity. Tremble and struggle to keep the wheel straight. Faster, more speed is my only choice to outrun this demon I can not see. I’m terrified for my daughter. What remains out there isn’t human.

The road moves quicker out of my reach. It’s as though time is out of reach and I’m left trying to reach something that isn’t real. Slam. Crash. Bang. --- Think of the loudest noise you’ve ever heard and amplify that by 1000. I’ve driven right into something. Head on. My front end is wrapped around an unseen object. Steam and exhaust pour out from the car. I’ve hit the steering wheel with blunt force and my forehead is bleeding wide open. I can’t make out the road anymore. But to be honest, there’s nothing in front of my car, not an animal, person, or object, yet I’ve collided with something. It was like hitting a brick wall. Naila is fine in the back. She isn’t sleeping but looks calm and unharmed. I reach back to reassure her. They tell you to stay with the vehicle if you’ve been in a crash. Ordinarily I would, but this isn’t a normal circumstance. I crawl to the backseat with Naila and remove her carefully from the child restraints. We climb out of the car and move our way to the shelter of the roadside. Sitting on the shoulder of the road, I wrap her in a blanket and try to rock her back to sleep. Not long before I’m out as well.

Most people awake in a haze. I jumped to attention, as I’m not holding Naila and there’s a cool air hitting my face. I’m looking around and it’s still dark. We aren’t by the road. In fact, we’ve never left the car. Naila is sound asleep in the backseat. My front end is pristine. Momentarily I realize that the car has spun out again, but at no point did we collide with anything. Maybe I did hit my head ? How long was I out? Too long. Actually according to the clock, it hasn’t been more than five minutes passed since the last time I looked. Lights approach again. Clearly a little shaken I quickly try to maneuver out of this direction and drive. The lights slow as they move closer. It’s a black sedan. It stops. As do I. Out climbs an officer who approaches my car with swiftness. ‘Ma’am, are you alright?’ I nod. ‘A little bit of car trouble?’ Something like that? I give a puzzled look to the officer. He steps back and his face begins to peel away and his body melts before my eyes into a heap of clothing. There’s no car in front of me and no clothes upon the ground. I’m a mess slowly losing my grip on reality. Uncontrollable hysteria met with the necessary urge to see my daughter home safely.

Resume driving again, slower and more cautiously this time as the road winds into the night. My eyes move in shifts between the front windshield and the rear view mirror. Alone. Still. Quiet. Make my way down our driveway as the rain becomes steadier. At least we are home. I climb out and head to passenger side to grab Naila from her seat. She’s asleep, and I’m thankful for the little things. Carry her into the house, and put her to bed. It’s been a long night. I’m sitting for a moment to gather my thoughts. Asleep? I’d barely closed my eyes, when I heard it, that unmistakable cry of pain. Cool air on my skin. Open eyes. I’m in the car again. But it’s very much different. Naila is gone and so is the night sky. Dawn breaks before my eyes on the distant horizon. The car is wreckage. I’m trapped and in pain. My screams are piercing the silence. Will this madness ever end? At least Naila is safe, in my mind, she is out of harms way. Let this insanity take hold. Upon looking around I’m not alone. There are two other cars beside mine. One is completely flipped over, the other is untouched. Close my eyes and try to find the strength to free myself from this prison. Clawing at my seat belt and pushing with my legs to break out. Falling. I hit the ground. Eyes open. I’m on the floor in my living room. What is this madness that threatens to pull me under? Answers elude my tired mind. I can only hope this will be the last waking nightmare. What will become of this fragile mind of mine? Get up and head into the kitchen. The room shifts before my eyes and I’m walking outdoors again along the highway. Dark Night. Cold. Shiver. My breath escapes visibly into the air. Before me, lays the wreckage of a red half-ton pickup. It’s Hank. The cab is far too annihilated for any person to have survived. I’m uncertain of what’s happening still, but I walk over to assess the reality of what lays in front of me. As I near the wreck, the world shifts and I’m face to face with my refrigerator. Cool, aluminum, and silent. There’s no power in the house. Its blackness around me. I head back down the hall towards Naila, to make sure she’s asleep. As I maneuver the long hall there’s a trail of liquid running along the floor. Crossing over it twice with my bare feet, I’ve smeared this substance on the floor.

It’s only human to imagine the worst when you can not explain a situation. Light a candle. Blood on the floor. It’s a trail of wet sticky red that enters Naila’s room. Dimly in the yellow glow I follow the path. She’s still asleep, never stirred or moved from the bed. The red stops next to the bed in a large pool that’s unmoved. Swallow. Gasp. I’m falling again. My mind feels stretched to the brink as I try to grab a hold of anything. Desperately I try to rationalize but there’s no answers coming. The world rights itself again and it becomes clear, nothing is what it seems. I’m face down on the road. I’ve been thrown several feet from the car and resting in a pool of blood. Lift head. Look around. Back at the crash sight. What’s left of Hank’s red truck is wrapped around the front end of a black SUV and nearby a silver sedan is overturned in twisted pile. What happened? This isn’t real. But it’s all too real. Struggling to move, I slowly find my way upright. In darkness, the rain masks movements and it’s unclear if I’m truly alone. Walking, hobbling at my best pace, towards the roadside, I can make out a pair of shadows. One is a child. Naila. The other is… ME? They are asleep and covered by a small blanket. Did this happen? This is insanity. I run towards them and find myself slamming into the hall closet. Collapse. Dazed. There’s no blood on the floor.

Keep ahead. Try to put the pieces together before things change again. Nonsense.
Something happened out on that road tonight and my mind won’t rest until I’ve confronted it. Car keys. Naila. “Mommy, where are we going?” Shh. It’s ok. It will be soon. Drive. First bend. Nothing. Second hill. Still silence. Approaching the back hills on the outskirts of Trout Creek, we come upon pieces of wreckage strewn throughout the road. I swerve past two large fragments that are ablaze. “Mommy, I’m scared.” Shh. Just another minute. The road gives way to an expanse filled with emptiness and pours into a large wreckage ahead. “Mommy!” NAILA. Shh! It’s fine. “I’m cold.” Another minute. As my car nears its destination, the outline of a silver sedan becomes clearer. Can it be? The reflection in the mirror isn’t always what it seems. “Mommy, PLEASE, let’s GO home!” Stop. Get out. I’m face to face with the twisted metallic remains. “MOMMY!” Wait. NO! Look at yourself on the ground dying in a pool of blood. Naila! Pinned in the metal tomb before me. Turn around. Get back into the car. “Mommy, can we go home now?” Yes. Shudder. Let’s go home. Drive. Naila. Hold back the tears. “Mommy?” I’m sorry.

This is the one that threatened to end me. The one that I put away. I don’t like dealing with the ‘madness’, but I think those pieces are truly some of my darkest inventions. I’ve been really wrestling with ‘this’ right now and I’m trying to stay focused. I started this on 9/9/09 so I have been at this for a bit. What else can I say about it? This one is by far the longest as of yet. Aside from that other ‘one’ I’ve been writing in pieces - That’s another fun explanation. I personally don’t know if I like this one at all, or if it is truly finished. Indeed, I may revise. Probably. It just seemed like time to share the ‘thing’ that’s been destroying me. Oh yes, there’s a second ‘auto’ related story. It’s just in notes and scribbles right now. I really do like doing things in pairs or threes, or multiples. I’m unusual. There will be more. I’m trying. Now that this is behind me I think I may have freed up my mind. I hope. Anyhow… Enjoy? m.

*and as always... sorry for any errors. 

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